Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Medway floods

This week has, rightly, seen a lot of focus on the deadly floods in the North of England and Midlands.

The South has not been entirely immune as this video from Strood, 30 miles from London shows. As a former Medway resident myself, I can vouch that the accents are authentic (although I don't speak like this !).

Such has been the English summer so far.....

Farewell Blair

For some reason the BBC doesn't allow sharing of its news material.

Nonetheless the link is for a good clip to mark a historic day

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Heroes on the beaches of Kent 63 Years ago

Mrs. Donatella and I often visit the beaches of south Kent. They are an easy drive from South London and for one reason or another seem largely ignored my most people.

I guess British beaches just aren't fashionable but on a warm day it is possible to have a big sandy beach largely to oneself- certainly not something possible in "fashionable" destinations.

I will write about a small chapter of World War II that happened on the beach below.

Not for want of searching, I have failed to find anything about this on the Internet.

63 years ago today, a US Air Force B-24J Liberator Bomber was hit by German fire over Northern Europe. Two members of crew were killed instantly but the plane managed to return to Kentish shores. Two others jumped out and were killed on the beach when their parachutes failed to open. The remaining crew, I believe nine strong, crash landed in the sea.

Most were able to swim to safety but one was trapped in the wreckage by his legs amidst the rising water. A local doctor swam out and managed to get him free.

The wreckage of the plane remained visible in the sea at low tide for years but eventually became buried by sand.

The crash happened at Greatstone On Sea, a traditional English seaside village. Greatstone retains it understated character to this day. The Jolly Fisherman pub, there in 1944, is still open. A fish and chip shop is still staffed by native English staff ! The local council is a non-partisan local residents group.

Maybe the hulking presence of Dungeness Nuclear Power Station at the end of the penninsular keeps all but the most hardy estate agent or property developer at bay so, unusually for South East England, not much has changed.

Greatstone is a nice village with a beautiful beach. I will try to remember the one incident that lead to 4 American deaths in the much bigger battle to free Europe. A small memorial is still there and as today is the anniversary I felt I should add this record to the Internet.

I enjoy walking on this beach but it is also the place where heroes died in a short forgotten chapter of war.

(please click on the photos to enlarge)

Update: I obviously wasn't searching that well on the internet. There is a reference to this incident on this page

Night Fox

And here is fox with some rather scary eyes in the dusk...... (click photo to enlarge)

London foxes

A family of foxes that live near to us. Overall I suspect they are a bit unhealthier than their country cousins but many foxes are now born and bred in the City !

Tell no one

I can really recommend this film, to those who like thrillers.

It is a reminder that French cinema is not limited to bleak but stylish perspectives on the human condition, where at least half the cast end up dead (although no one does this better than the French !).

This could be a first rate American thriller, but for the French language and a bit of extra style. It certainly kept me guessing until the end. For readers of Harlan Coben it may be less of a puzzle as it is based on one of his books.

It also has one of the most dangerous attempts to cross a road (or in actual fact a motorway) in cinema history !

Monday, June 18, 2007

RIP Bernard Manning

A very funny comedian has died.

Reading the comments on the BBC website (hardly a hot bed of reactionary fervour) it is good to be reminded that many in Britain do not share the (mainly Southern) sensitivities of the chattering classes. Mr. Manning could be offensive but his humour was at the expense of many, regardless of background. He was someone that had "integrity" in the real sense of the world and lived his life uncrippled by the liberal taleban who enforce political correctness on the majority.

RIP Bernard.

Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:44 GMT 22:44 UK
Rip Bernard you were a very funny man who wasn't afraid to tell jokes on any subject good on you God bless you.
Lee Kimberley, Bradford
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:42 GMT 22:42 UK
It is with sadness i learn of bernard's death he was a unique individual who can never be replaced in this time of political correctness. what sad time times we live in. Hewould use humour to articulate what the majority ordinary people were thinking.The almighty does know what he going to let himself in for now that Bernard has arrived.
james chespy, gillingham
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
I saw Bernard Manning almost exactly 25 years ago in Cardiff, the Falklands war was raging and he pointed out 2 men in the front row and said to the rest of the audience, "look, here's 2 brave lads, just back from the Falklands" we all cheered and clapped in patriotic delight and Bernard then said "I don't know why you're cheering they're Argentinian b******s!"It was a great night and I'm grateful to Bernard Manning for that. It's a shame that political correctness was such a blight on his career
Phillip Middleton, Cardiff
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Bernard sure did polarise opinion. Even in my group of close friends of 25 years there's a marked divide. But all I can say is that I adored him. He was immensely funny, quite blatantly talented & I believe a genuine & likeable chap. I will really miss him not being around. RIP Bernard, I'll raise a pint to you at the first opportunity, my friend.
Keith Owen, Royal Leamington Spa
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:37 GMT 22:37 UK
Sorry to hear of the death of Bernard Manning.Saw him in Belfast some years ago, and thought he was terrific - a very very funny man.He took the p**s out of lots of people , including the Irish, but I could never take offence.Probably the funniest of all the stand-ups of his era.Doug
Dougal, Belfast
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:34 GMT 22:34 UK
My honest opinion? He was the funniest comedians EVER. Just couldn't help laughing out loud whenever I heard him. He just made fun of everybody, no holds barred.Best wishes to his family.
Wendy Simpson, Bournemouth, United Kingdom
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:31 GMT 22:31 UK
So sad, a genuinly funny man leaves us. The problem was, he just wasn't allowed to be what he was....a normal working class man making real honest people laugh. Comedy is needed to make this awful world a little bit easier to live in. When you are basically told what's allowed to be funny, it doesn't seem that amusing anymore. Bernard said what he felt and it was true and funny. It's the end of an era, apparently it's funny to hear graham norton say 'I like a big one.....etc' what a sad world we now live in. R.I.P. XXX
Kevin King
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:29 GMT 22:29 UK
Had tickets to see Bernard a week last Friday in Darwen, Lancs. Not seen the big man for eight years and was so looking forward to it. The gig was only cancelled on the day due to ill health. I worried then that I'd left it too late to see the genius for one last time. Anyone who calls him racist has never seen his show. I had even bought one such narrow minded individual a ticket for the show in Darwen to convert him. Bernard didn't just pick on ethnic groups, he picked on everyone. God bless to Bernard Jnr and the rest of the family. A truly great man who did so much for charity. He will be so sorely missed.
Dave, Bolton
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:20 GMT 22:20 UK
As a fellow Mancunian i will sorely miss Bernard Manning, He said it like it is and i admire him all the more for it. A gentle guy and a comic genius, rest in piece Bernard, manchester will not be the same without you .
andrew, manchester
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
a legend!
craigw, lincoln
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 20:59 GMT 21:59 UK
Bernard seemed gentle and kind but at the same time brave, bringing humour out from the repressed, hidden and not very PC thoughts of many, many people. He would say the things many other people simply wouldn't and for that reason should be respected. Will miss the big guy.
Steve Freestone, Lincolnshire
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
A true legend of comedy, Bernard will be sadly missed and must go down of one of the finest stand up comedians of all time. RIP Bernard.
Steve C, Newark
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
Good memories of frequenting the Embassy Club during my youth with all the mates. Learned very quickly that not sitting near the front would ensure an evening of outrageous humour, what a funny guy. Forget the racism comments, if you couldn't take it you didn't go (or at least sit near the front!!). Once saw him interrupt a singer on his stage, he told everyone to shut up and listen then handed the mike back to her. Great club and a decent person.
Kevin, Sydney, Australia
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
He was the best. Occasional questionable material aside, he was quite simply the funniest of all the great stand-ups. Impeccable timing, superb delivery and a real belief in the power of humour. He will be missed because there's no-one else like him - except, maybe, for the great Peter kay.
Paul, Nottingham
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Added: Monday, 18 June, 2007, 20:56 GMT 21:56 UK
He was of his time. It's very easy to look back and be critical of what was, at the time, quite acceptable. Some of his material is now generally agreed to be offensive and defines the dominant view of his career. He may have been the one on stage saying it, but there were many more in the audience laughing at it. Public attitudes have changed and we now view him as racist and offensive. We look back on that time and put the blame on him for our collective bigotry. Manning was never given a chance to change. Had we not been so quick to condemn and put him on the defensive, his legacy may have been very different.We should stop looking for scapegoats and face the real problem.
Jon, Ascot
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Soaking June

Despite my sarcastic comments on the Met Office's geographical knowledge earlier, I am probably in quite a small minority of people who regularly view their website ! The London Met Office is probably one of the strongest weather centres in the world. I am not sure how many other countries offer careers in weather !

What their site does show is June has been a rather wet month. This week saw floods in Northern Ireland, Yorkshire, the Midlands and Essex.

However aside from the obvious areas for summer storms such as the Caribbean, Southern USA and India, I have read of heavy rain and floods in places as diverse as Malta, Istanbul, Germany, Oman (particularly bad), Iran and Australia.

Where did the expression "Flaming June" come from ? This has to be one of the soggiest Junes for a long time. Wimbledon is only a week away so maybe the rain will last until then, giving Cliff Richard a chance to do some of his traditional Wimbledon sing songs !

For anyone really looking for summer sun and heat I can recommend Ukraine as my Mother-in-law informs us that temperatures have been approaching 38 C (100 F) for the last few weeks.

Here is June's archive to date from the Met Office including todays's news of Swedish snow :

Snow follows heatwave in Sweden
17 Jun 2007Snows close South American highway
17 Jun 2007Storms prompt flooding in Houston
15 Jun 2007Monsoon lightning kills 21
15 Jun 2007China floods result in 76 deaths
15 Jun 2007Lightning causes garden fire
15 Jun 2007Rain lashes US state
16 Jun 2007Heavy snow surprises observers
16 Jun 2007Thousands affected by Kenyan floods
14 Jun 2007Temperatures above average in Ireland
14 Jun 2007One dead after US thunderstorm
14 Jun 2007Drought leads to food shortage
14 Jun 2007Contaminated water threat follows flood
13 Jun 2007Pakistan heatwave set to continue
13 Jun 2007Monsoon rains intensifying
13 Jun 2007Canadians warned of heat hazard
13 Jun 2007Oklahoma hit by flooding
13 Jun 2007Tropical storm forms in Pacific
13 Jun 2007Cold weather creates livestock hazard
12 Jun 2007Three dead after Swiss storm
12 Jun 2007Heat 'could lead to food poisoning'
12 Jun 2007Thousands affected by floods
12 Jun 2007Locals die in Indian heatwave
12 Jun 200723 die in Iranian cyclone
12 Jun 2007Rain prompts Bangladesh landslides
11 Jun 2007Australian storm causes evacuations
11 Jun 2007Man dies in Ohio thunderstorms
11 Jun 2007German storm results in 27 injuries
11 Jun 2007Dozens die in Chinese floods
11 Jun 2007Teen killed after lightning strike
11 Jun 2007New Zealand endures wintry blizzard
10 Jun 2007Three die in Chinese flood
10 Jun 2007Istanbul hit by flooding
08 Jun 2007Temperatures soar in Indian city
08 Jun 2007Storm system affects US states
08 Jun 2007Storm lashes Australian state
08 Jun 2007Locals evacuate storm-hit village
09 Jun 2007Norwegians enjoy heatwave
09 Jun 2007Downpour hits Australian state
07 Jun 200712 die in Oman cyclone
07 Jun 2007Storm disrupts South African roads
07 Jun 2007Water use restricted to stave off drought
07 Jun 2007Storms lash Canadian province
06 Jun 2007Extended rainfall hits Queensland
06 Jun 2007Malaysian homes flooded out
06 Jun 2007Farmers 'face worst drought in 125 years'
06 Jun 2007Motorists warned in bad weather
06 Jun 2007Millions short of drinking water
06 Jun 2007Surprise rain brings flooding (Malta)
06 JunFive die in Chinese lightning strike
05 Jun 2007Bulgarian village flooded
05 Jun 2007Canada prepares for floods
05 Jun 2007Seven die in heavy rains
05 Jun 2007Cyclone approaches Oman
05 Jun 2007Kuala Lumpur hit by floods
04 Jun 2007Farmers concerned over Bhutan heat
04 Jun 2007Five die in Ghanaian floods
04 Jun 200737 die in Indian heatwave
04 Jun 2007Ski season starts on time
04 Jun 2007Floods follow heavy rain
04 Jun 200729 die in Bangladesh heatwave
03 Jun 2007Drought hits Florida water supplies
03 Jun 2007Melbourne temperatures break records
01 Jun 2007Toddler dies from heat exposure (UAE)
01 Jun 2007Man dies after lightning strike
01 Jun 2007Farmers ordered not to go on fields
01 Jun 2007Indian heatwave continues
02 Jun 2007Severe hailstorms hit China

Argentina-Chinese tunnel

Signs that the London Met Office's grasp of geography is not all that it should be ! Here is an actual report from today: (bring back Michael Fish !)

Snows close South American highway
17 Jun 2007
Heavy snow in the Andes resulted in the closure of the Cristo Redentor tunnel on the border between Argentina and China earlier this week.
The Associated Press reports on June 13th that snowfall on Wednesday left thousands of trucks stuck on roads on both sides of the border as officials closed the tunnel for an estimated 72 hours, according to the Telam news agency.

Drivers were advised to find other places to cross the border while the high winds and snowstorms continued.

The Cristo Redentor tunnel is located 10,400 feet above sea level and is 1.9 miles long.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

They don't make them like they used to.....

Listen to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher speaking on the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War.

Although nearly 17 years into retirement, her speech (for Forces Radio) sounds both considered and passionate in a way few politicians sound like today. She even chooses to touch on the conflicts in the world today.

Whatever your politics, it seems there are few politicians that have come close to the calibre of Margaret Thatcher to this day.

Du vin, du pain et du vin ?

Or, just caught off guard following a meeting with "Monsieur Putin" ?

(please watch to about 5 or 6 seconds from the end of the clip for the full effect !)

Monday, June 11, 2007

101 really useful websites

Well courtesy of the Independent at least....

Posts have a been a bit thin on the ground for the last week. All is well but life is busy- back with more shortly........

Monday, June 04, 2007

A dust cart named Ethos

Today's been a rather funny day.

I was walking through the City this morning when I saw a dust cart collecting rubbish ("gabbage" for any US readers). Emblazened along its side was the logo "Ethos". Maybe I am missing something but I never associated this word with rubbish collection before!

Then the London Olympic Committee announced that this was to be the logo for the 2012 olympics:


Well if we're using the phrase in this way, I think this looks a load of "Ethos" to me ! Worth £400,000 of anyone's time I'm sure !

It's on days like this that I wonder is there another way.

As the riots in Rostock this weekend show there are a lot of people unhappy with the status quo. The G8 summit is becoming remembered more for the riots than the policy output. Rostock 2007 is "the most violent since Genoa 2001" the pundits say almost in the manner of a weather forecaster reviewing this year's summer.

But I wouldn't see myself fitting in with those opponents of the status quo !

And now Mr. Putin threatens to aim his nuclear missiles on Europe. So for now I will, of course, show loyality to my country and accept the land of dustcarts named Ethos and where £400,000 of tax payer's money is spent on something a 5-year old could do better- this is all part of what I sometimes grudgingly accept as the price for freedom.......

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Old Joy

I can really recommend "Old Joy" for anyone looking for a film that is a bit a refreshing and different from the usual diet of "hits" and "blockbusters".

The plot is simple, not to say minimal. Essentially two old college friends Mark and Kurt, both now in their thirties meet for an overnight camping trip to a hot spring* in Oregon.

The two friends are now superficially quite different. Mark is domesticated and approaching fatherhood while Kurt is a bushy-bearded drifter who lives reasonably happily beyond the norms of society.

Due to these differences there is some awkwardness and silences but nothing that cannot be overcome in the course of their journey.

The film has a sense of simple escape as Kurt, Mark and Mark's dog drive off into the Oregon countryside. They do (briefly) find a sense of escape but Mark's mobile phone and the shortness of the trip mean they are never far from their slightly daunting realities of their lives. The whole film seems to be about fragility- of friendships, of life itself and of brief moments of true freedom.

It is a simple film that doesn't try to say too much but captures the spirit as well as the challenges of friendship between two changing but ultimately similar men.

It is a short film at just over 70 minutes so while it may not be everyone's cup of tea due to its minimal plot, is worth watching. If nothing else it makes me want to see the Oregon countryside.

It manages to capture something special about escaping from the city, from urban reality into a rural idyl. So much so, that it is gently saddening as Mark and Kurt return to their respective homes.

There is a line in the film where Kurt says that it is easy to forget that this is all ( the countryside, the forest and the natural world) still there. It is certainly a timely reminder for anyone who spends too much time in a big city like London.

* Bagby Hot Spring, Oregon